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Winno

Steve's hi-fi adventures.

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About 7 months ago, we purchased a fairly new house with three living areas.

This was the perfect opportunity for me to finally separate the movie/tv system from my two channel system for some better sound and a bit of a de-clutter. It also means that I can listen to music when the other family members are wanting to watch TV or whatever.

 

The lounge room is our main movie/tv room, and this system is the main streamed music system for the living end of the house when we entertain. Just after we moved in, we had cabling run, the feature wall painted, and some floating cupboards fitted. Will put a nice palm in the corner shortly to cozy things up a bit more.

The system's source is a Mac Mini and T-Box.

Processing and amplification is by a Cambridge Audio Azure 551R receiver. This replaced our entry level Denon and is a massive improvement in every respect.

The speakers are Canton's Movie 10 system with five alloy driver, alloy enclosure satellites and an active 8" sub. The sub sits on solid metal cones to pierce the thick carpets and has been "pavered" for improved sound.

The TV is a 7 Series 4K Samsung 60"

All cabling is Monster.

 

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Now, my music room ended up being a bit of a compromise. I had hoped to remove a long desk and floating cupboards for more room but it turns out, this was needed and has in fact, ended up being used regularly when I work from home or when the kids do homework.

So, I had to work around this.

 

The system is fed by my modified Sony cdp-XA5ES cd player. I replaced all the op-amps in this with Burson discretes a while ago, and also fitted an IEC socket to the rear of the player. The new op-amps do a much better job of things all around, including a much better job of driving power amps directly. I had wanted an XA7ES but there were none around that I could find at the time and in the end and after the op-amp mods, I may have something better or at least, on-parr anyway.

The player feeds straight into my Whise HA-1500 hybrid electrostatic speakers via Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects. 

The speakers have been slightly modified internally with better cabling (Monster and Kimber) and continuous wire runs instead of multiple connections.

The pics also show a first gen Apple TV and this will be used to stream from the Mac Mini in the movie system across the entry way once I can settle on a nice valve preamplifier.

I purchased the Soundstyle audio stand locally when it was in a rather sad state. It's made using fully welded steel with large cone feet. I had it stripped and powder coated better than new. Once back from the coaters, it was filled with shell grit to avoid adding too much extra mass but still deaden the steel. The glass shelves rung like bells so they received a sheet of Dynamat underneath for a poor man's constrained layer damping and it actually works very well. Extra equipment isolation is courtesy of Vibrapod footers.

Power cables are no-name Chinese ones but use very heavy copper conductors, very solid plugs at each end, and all solid copper hardware.

 

The room has a dedicated mains run and power sockets but is still a work in progress with a feature wall to be painted and some plants added but here it is so far...

 

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Edited by Winno

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Luverly.

 

Where did you get that single recliner?

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Thanks guys.

Luverly.

Where did you get that single recliner?

It's a Nick Scali Cavaleri model recliner. It's actually the single seat that matches the chairs in our movie room but it was too big to fit.

It's too comfy to part with so it was relegated to use in the two channel room.

Edited by Winno

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Time for some changes.

My Soundstyle rack has been sold and is awaiting pick up by the new owner this weekend.

Replacing this will be some plywood floating shelves - probably three - on the wall where the rack stood.

My Sony CDP-XA5ES is still up for grabs and has been sat aside for its replacement. Well, it's not really a replacement to the same level as the Sony, particularly in the cd player department but, I now have a preamp and DAC for my music streaming. I'm a bit of a mild Audiolab fan from back in the 90's when I used to sell their 8000A, 8000Q, 8000P, etc when I lived in NZ. I'd decided I wanted an 8200CDQ as reviews were favourable, and I really wanted to simplify my whole system down to a minimum of boxes. I'd never heard one before but decided I would enjoy it regardless. I did listen to an early one in the shop today and was impressed. Mine is the latest one with OLED display, improved power supply, and latest firmware.

Regarding the shop, I was guided to contact David at Caxton Audio in Brisbane as he's an authorised Audiolab dealer. I wasn't looking forward to calling him as he's grated on me a couple of times previously (he's a bit of a grumpy old dude by first impressions). Sure enough, he wasn't into chit-chat during the call but he did confirm he had stock of what I wanted. Looks like I would have to eat humble pie and actually set foot into his shop again after vowing not to again.

I popped in today to see him and you know what?

He's actually an alright guy and happy to chat and laugh if he knows customers aren't going to waste his time (not that I was previously by any means).

It was a most pleasant experience - probably the best I've had from any audio store in Brisbane.

I also got a stonkin' good discount from him, even brand new in box!

So, here's some pics of my messy music room.

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Unboxing pics to come...

Edit: pics added.

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The OLED display seems whiter than the first release versions.

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I also struggled with which colour to go for and sat at Caxton Audio on the couch just staring at my options. Very happy with the silver now. I think it looks class. It'll also match my Apple TV 1st Gen (also silver)

Time is tight but I hope to have the shelves cut, prepped, and up asap so I can start enjoying my room again.

Edited by Winno

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Guest Sime

I'm surprised this thread been quiet, it's a good setup, I likes.

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Thanks Sime.

I kinda fly under the radar on this forum and my system is still pretty humble so I'm not anticipating accolades - lol.

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Looks great Steve - lovely home as well.

 

Enjoy in good health my friend :)

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Guest Sime

Thanks Sime.

I kinda fly under the radar on this forum and my system is still pretty humble so I'm not anticipating accolades - lol.

A bit beyond humble I think ;)

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Well, I sold my Sony player tonight. 

Awesome player but I'm not sad really...because I've been shopping!

 

I ordered my floating shelves today. Rather than muck around cutting ply and treating it to make it look nice, I decided to go alloy and glass again. The Apple and Audiolab stuff will contrast nicely with it and it'll match in with the black and silver on the Dragons.

 

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Do you know how hard it is to get something with shelves deep enough?

What a mission!

 

I also ordered a good USB cable to connect Apple TV to the CDQ - an Oyaide Neo d+ Class S.

 

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I don't go nutso about cables anymore. I still think a good cable can make a difference however, I'm much more aware of value for money now.

My first preference was something from Nordost or Kimber but, I reckon this one should do the job for less than $90 delivered.

 

I also ordered a 10m white HDMI-HDMI cable to run from my Apple TV to my work monitor which sits on the desk next to my listening chair.

I used to have a monitor sitting on the audio stand but in the interests of a clean look, I'm only putting the Apple TV, CDQ, and Dragons up the front.

Edited by Winno

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Very nice congrats.
I've bought a bit of gear from David and his prices and service are second to none. He has a level of experience which would be very hard to replace in Brisbane.
Enjoy.
Steve.

Edited by steve u

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Well, my nice new Oyaide USB cable turned up today.

 

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Trouble is, I didn't research Apple TV enough and didn't realise its USB socket is an input only.

Up for sale it goes in the classifieds...

 

I needed to satisfy my desire for mods so off came the lid of my CDQ.

 

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Not much possibility for easy mods here - no 8 pin opamps to roll out, no signal cables to replace...

At best, perhaps I could source some nice solid copper RCA sockets maybe.

The transformer did cop thick Sorbothane gaskets top and bottom though to isolate it from the chassis.

 

I'll keep playing with the digital filter options and make sure it's shelved well with Vibrapods and maybe some constrained layer damped glass shelving.

 

It is mellowing fractionally as it gets a few hours use through it. Fresh out of the box, it was a little splashy and light in the bass. Thank goodness that appears to be changing.

Edited by Winno

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I am very interested as I am looking to simplify and just have 1 basic HT system and and concentrate more on 2 channel system. Some great ideas here.

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Guest Sime

Yes, the Apple TV's USB is only for diagnostic purposes, and your not the first to make that mistake.

Edit: I just noticed your ATV is first gen, different story.....

Edited by Sime

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Nice ideas Simon - well done.

 

Just out of curiosity, did you ever try keeping just the one system and using the Whise / Nakamichi's for HT as well?

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I am very interested as I am looking to simplify and just have 1 basic HT system and and concentrate more on 2 channel system. Some great ideas here.

I'm not sure what it is but for a few years now, I've been pretty ruthless clearing my life of "clutter" or excess stuff.

My biggest system was a Musical Fidelity Electra series system with multiple power amps, multiple runs of Wireworld Eclipse balanced i/c and speaker cables feeding some Mordaunt Short Performance 880 speakers.

It sounded big and very nice but it took up too much room.

This system sounds better and is simple. It takes up a fraction of the space.

Edited by Winno

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Just out of curiosity, did you ever try keeping just the one system and using the Whise / Nakamichi's for HT as well?

The thought did occur to me but I really don't watch much tv or movie material. I prefer music.

Plus, this lets different family members enjoy different things at the same time.

Before this place, it was all combined and I was restricted to late night listening after everyone else had gone to bed.

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On the performance front, the CDQ has changed dramatically since new.

The system had a splashy and thin sound that I thought might have been a Nordost/Audiolab issue which lead me to advertise my Blue Heaven I/C for sale/swap.

After a couple of weeks though, the splash disappeared and things really became much more refined and musical to the point I don't miss my valve amplification any more.

I purchased an Audioquest Forest 0.7m optical cable to replace my Monster M350i analogue I/Cs. Big improvement in every respect even though the Forest is AQs cheapest optical.

I settled on running the analogue preamp section and use the Optimal Transient digital filtering.

The sound is sweet, neutral, detailed, and dynamic. I also run the bass drivers in the Dragons a little hotter than "flat" via their filter adjustment because I like to feel the bass.

I did wonder if I should have gone for an M-DAC and CDT instead because of the M-DAC's discrete output stage and my lessening use of cd but hey, I'm supposed to be simplifying right?

Anyway, I'm very happy with what I'm hearing and seeing so I may only upgrade my cables moving forward from here.

Here's more pics ('scuse the iPhone quality);

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I suffered a hit on my home theatre system y'day - my Canton sub has died and gone to subwoofer heaven.

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Over a few months, I found myself having to add more and more gain to the sub channel from my receiver. A couple of weeks ago, the sub just finally peetered out.

The receiver has been tested by a tech on his bench and i tested the sub on the end of my CDQ in the music room.

So, I'm now on the hunt for a sub. That $50 Focal in the classified this week would have been perfect.

I'll look around locally but a tight budget will be guiding me unfortunately.

Might step up to a 10" or 12" this time if I can. I'd prefer sealed but it seems most readily available (new and used) seem to be ported.

Has anyone played with putting a bung in a port to tame things?

Edited by Winno

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A little while ago, my father picked up an old Theta DSPre Gen II preamp from a mutual friend of ours. I knew this but didn't give it another thought really as I was very happy with my Audiolab 8200CDQ.

Anyway, I was down there visiting him in Maldon Vic. over Christmas and had plenty of time to read. What little is on the internet about this DAC/Pre spoke very highly of it (most info was on the Schiit blog by Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat) so we came to an arrangement: I bring the Theta back to Brisbane to trial against the Audiolab, I sell which ever one loses, and Dad gets the cash.

He couldn't use this as he has a nice two-box valve pre and he is solidly analogue.

I would give it a go as I only use two digital sources (cd and streaming) and this unit has two digital inputs.

We wrapped it up and I brought it home as hand luggage (I was very lucky to get this on as such as it is 13.5kg and hand luggage limit is 7kg).

 

Some pics:

 

I looooove those toggle switches.

 

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Boards - Motorola and what looks like Texas Instruments chip-sets, and Mogami wiring which I want to rip out and redo with something much nicer. Each section is in its own Faraday cage too.

 

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You can tell these things were hand-made.

 

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Pots - the stepped volume pot is the highly desirable TKD carbon apparently

 

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And demo

 

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I warmed up the system with the Audiolab and it is sounding very nice - detailed, good stage width and depth, smooth, engaging, and detailed. It's easy to see why this unit received the awards and praise it did.

 

Switching to the Theta (feed was coax out of the Audiolab) and the differences were at first only subtle.

Over the next two hours though, this thing really opened up.

Transients have incredible attack with bass being full, deep, and very solid. The leading edge of hat and cymbal strikes was so delicate.

Violins showed real texture and were neutral yet sweet and very easy to listen to.

I have never found it so easy to follow any instrument of my choosing in complex passages of music.

The centre performer was cast in greater relief and the stage is now out beyond the placement of my speakers.

 

Now, the Audiolab is certainly no slouch by any means but the Theta, despite being 27 years old, positively lifted a veil and the performance of my Whise ESL's to the point where this will go down as the second listening epiphany of my audio years.

 

So, yes, the Audiolab is now in the Classifieds, and the wall shelf will be soon too as the Theta is a bit of a beast (size and mass).

 

 

 

 

Edited by Winno

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Great stuff.  Vintage gear is so cool. Its hilarious a DAC made in 1989 sounds so good in this era of tech marvels. The Theta DAC might sound even better with a few more hours plugged in.  I cant see what the DAC chips are? Any idea? They might be labelled AD18xx or PCMxx.

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5 minutes ago, Nada said:

Great stuff.  Vintage gear is so cool. Its hilarious a DAC made in 1989 sounds so good in this era of tech marvels. The Theta DAC might sound even better with a few more hours plugged in.  I cant see what the DAC chips are? Any idea? They might be labelled AD18xx or PCMxx.

 

I know, right!

I was a sceptic until I listened.

I sat there listening and shaking my head in disbelief on some tracks.

 

I can't tell from the pics which DAC chips they are but I may have read (and subsequently forgotten) somewhere what they use.

 

 

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The sound you describe with the Theta is the classic R2R signature. Looks like it has the AD1860 R2R:
 

Quote


 DS Pre Generation II and DS Pro Generation II, released in 1990. These products incorporated all-new digital and analog boards. The digital board utilized two 24 bit Motorola 56001 microprocessors running at 24 MHz which was a two-fold increase in computing power over the DS Pre. The analog board was upgraded to 18 bit Analog Devices AD 1860 DACs.

 

 

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A few days ago, I ordered some new digital signal cables - an Oyaide AS-808R V2 75 Ohm coaxial and an Oyaide d+ Neo Class S V2 USB cable.

I'm looking to buy a Singxer SU-1 USB-SPDIF converter in coming weeks to connect my coming laptop with my Theta DSPre Gen II preamp.

These cables will fulfill connection duties.

Y'day, I switched out my old Monster M550i analogue interconnect currently between my Audiolab CD player's coax digital out and the Theta for the new Oyaide coaxial and what a difference!

The Monster is good but the Oyaide is much cleaner up top and the space around performers and instruments is dramatically improved. The rear of the stage has also been pushed further away but I can hear more of what's going on there too.

I had no idea what to expect and switching back and forth yielded the same result each time.

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